VIETNAM VET GETS BEST FRIEND HIS LONG-OVERDUE PURPLE HEART — COURTHOUSE NEWS SERVICE — WASHINGTON (CN) — Talk about a surprise party. Forty-seven years after Fred Rivera saw his best friend die in his arms during a firefight in Vietnam — then found out only recently that Herman Johnson is alive — Fred saw Herman get his long-overdue Purple Heart in an emotional reunion at the Vietnam Memorial Wall on Sunday.
The weekend held multiple surprises for Johnson, 68, of Warren, Mich.
His congressman, Sander Levin, was there. A three-star general, Lt. Gen. Guy C. Swan III, Ret., pinned the Purple Heart onto his breast in a ceremony at the Three Soldiers monument by The Wall.
“We’re going to correct that record here today and make sure that Mr. Johnson gets his award that is 47 years overdue,” Swan said.
Sgt. John Marek, who enlisted other veterans to track Herman down and united him with Fred, conducted the ceremony.
“This is to certify the President of the United States of America has awarded the Purple Heart, established by Gen. George Washington, at Newburgh, N.Y., Aug. 7, 1782 to Private First Class Herman Johnson,” Marek said.
Gentle sounds of weeping filled the air.
A STATE OF EMERGENCY — US NEWS & WORLD REPORT — New findings from the Veterans Affairs Department’s inspector general and the Government Accountability Office suggest that while the VA is making consistent gains in providing services for veterans through its Veterans Crisis Line (VCL), other systems that provide suicide prevention services to nonveterans are in far greater need of attention.
The progress made by the VA could provide a blueprint for improving suicide prevention services for all Americans.
When a veteran calls the VCL, the call is answered by a call responder at a central, VA-run call center. However, if not answered within 30 seconds, the call is transferred to one of five call centers that are part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (the “Lifeline”) which typically serve nonveterans and here also serve as backup call centers to the VCL.
These backup call centers were included in both the GAO audits. As part of its investigation, the GAO also conducted covert test calls to the Lifeline, where calls are routed to one of 164 privately run call centers across the system. The VCL backup centers and the other Lifeline call centers are among the crisis resources that most Americans rely on. As a system serving nonveterans, the Lifeline centers have never been subjected to an evaluation as rigorous as the IG and GAO audits.
One striking finding from these audits is that while veterans who reach out for help are likely to find someone on the other end of the line, such assurances do not necessarily hold for most Americans. Of the 114 covert calls the GAO made to the VCL, all but one was answered within 120 seconds. In contrast, wait times for 3 of 34 covert calls to the Lifeline were over five minutes. (For one, the test caller waited 18 minutes for someone to answer the phone.) At one of the Lifeline call centers that served as a backup to the VCL, the IG found that at least 20 calls were routed to a voicemail system that staff at the backup call center didn’t even know existed.
TRUMP PROPOSES LINKING FOREIGN WORKER VISAS TO HIRING VETERANS — WALL STGREET JOURNAL — Republican presidential contender Donald Trump has proposed requiring businesses seeking to hire foreign workers first to give preference to U.S. veterans.
In a Monday speech on veterans issues, Mr. Trump presented a 10-point plan for changes he would make at the Department of Veterans Affairs that included changing the visa system to help veterans, though there was no detail and no explanation on the matter.
“Reform our visa programs to ensure American Veterans are in the front, not back, of the line,” Mr. Trump said in the speech.
In a series of emails later Monday, Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller said Mr. Trump proposed to require businesses applying for visas for foreign workers to hire American citizens first and to give preference to unemployed veterans above others.
“We have a broader reform to offer jobs to Americans First and we will expressly make sure Veterans are linked up for any open job,” Mr. Miller wrote. “The visa rule is straightforward. Companies applying for visas should offer jobs to unemployed Veterans.”
The Trump campaign declined to provide further details on the proposal and the mechanism for encouraging companies to hire veterans.
Current law has no requirement for employers to give preferential treatment to American citizens over foreign non-residents eligible for H-1B visas, but businesses must show they will pay prevailing wages for the job and provide certain worker protections.
Non-resident foreigners must show they have unique qualifications for particular positions to get H-1B visas. And those visas are capped at 65,000 per year, with some exceptions.
FREE BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOP FOR NATIVE-AMERICAN MILITARY VETERANS — ALAMAGORDO NEWS — ALBUQUERQUE – Native-American military veterans, Guard/Reserve and transitioning active-duty service members interested in starting their own business or expanding an existing operation are invited to attend a unique VBOC On the Rez business development seminar in Albuquerque from 9:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Aug. 13 at the Isleta Resort & Casino, 11000 Broadway SE near Albuquerque.
All veterans/non-Native American veterans are also welcome to attend—as are spouses of all attendees. A free hot lunch will be provided for all by the Isleta Resort & Casino.
The free seminar is presented by the New Mexico Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC), the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services, the Pueblo of Isleta, and the Pueblo of Isleta Veterans Association. Also assisting in presenting are the U.S. Small Business Administration, the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of New Mexico, the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, the American Indian Procurement Technical Assistance Center, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and the SBDC Procurement Technical Assistance Program.
VETERAN TUITION PROGRAM IN WYOMING SAVED FROM BUDGET CUTS — AP — CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A program that provides tuition assistance for veterans has been restored for now by Gov. Matt Mead after being targeted for elimination because of budget cuts.
Mead announced Wednesday that he would continue funding the program through the coming fall semester. And he didn’t rule out the possibility of continuing it after this year.
The program administered by the Wyoming Community College Commission provided assistance to 162 veterans at the state’s seven community colleges and the University of Wyoming last fall.
Just at UW, about 60 students had been enrolled in the program, costing the state about $312,000 a year in tuition support.
Veterans who had been deployed to combat zones could receive 10 free semesters at any Wyoming community college and the university. Veterans’ surviving spouses and dependents are also eligible.
HOUSE VETS PANEL GETS NEW RANKING DEMOCRAT AFTER LAWMAKER’S INDICTMENT — MILCOM — The House Veterans Affairs Committee has a new ranking member after longtime Democratic Rep. Corinne Brown of Florida was forced to relinquish the leadership position after being charged in a criminal investigation.
Rep. Mark Takano of California said in a brief statement that he was “humbled to assume the role” of acting ranking member.
His spokesman, Josh Weisz, told Military.com on Tuesday that Takano will meet over the next few days with fellow Democrats on the committee to talk specific goals, but that his “first priority is for the committee to continue its work at full-speed during this transition period.”
Brown, along with her chief of staff, was charged on Friday with 24 counts of wrongdoing. The Florida grand jury indictment alleges Brown and Elias R. “Ronnie” Simmons, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through a phony charity, One Door for Education — Amy Anderson Scholarship Fund, which they used “for their own personal and professional benefit.”
MIDDLETOWN MEMORIAL FOR DISABLED VETERANS FIRST OF ITS KIND IN CONNECTICUT — MIDDLETOWN PRESS — MIDDLETOWN | Inspired by the 2014 dedication of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington, D.C., the city’s disabled veterans group envisioned Veteran’s Green as a perfect spot for a similar memorial.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to have something like this here,” speculated veterans rolling past the green on the ride home from D.C., according to Thomas Goglia, treasurer and adjutant of Middletown’s Disabled American Veterans Chapter 7. There, he said a local veteran witnessed President Barack Obama speak at the memorial’s dedication. The plans were set in motion six months ago for the memorial, the first of its kind in the state.
“Our state DAV liked the idea so much, they donated $5,000,” said Goglia. That was the donation that pushed the group’s total to $40,000. “That’s pretty good.”
DAV is a nonprofit charity that provides a lifetime of support for veterans of all generations and their families. The group has helped more than a million veterans in positive, life-changing ways each year, according to the DAV website. In 2015, the group helped veterans attain more than $4 billion in new and retroactive benefits to care for them, their families and survivors, according to the DAV.
VA DOUBLING BACK TO RESOLVE TBI CLAIMS DENIALS — ARMY TIMES — Veterans Affairs officials aren’t saying how 24,000 veterans were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury by VA physicians considered unqualified to make such a determination, but on Wednesday, told Congress the department is working to resolve related disability claims problems.
Some veterans diagnosed with TBI from 2007 to 2015 were denied disability benefits because they were examined by a VA health provider considered to be unqualified under VA policy.
After a media investigation by KARE 11 in Minneapolis found that as many as 300 veterans at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center were denied benefits as a result, the department announced it would review all cases involving veterans with improper exams.
In June, VA announced it would send letters to more than 24,000 affected veterans offering new exams.
WOUNDED VET LIVING IN NEW ‘SMART HOME’ — S&S — WALDORF, Md. — He has moved his family seven times in six years, but retired Army Cpl. David Bixler hopes this will be his permanent home.
“I’m kind of having a hard time for everything to sink in,” the father of three said Tuesday, moments after receiving a 2,800-square-foot “smart home,” courtesy of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. “It’s not real yet.
“It’s one of those things where you keep wanting it to happen, and when it finally happens, I don’t know what to do. I don’t even know what to think. It’s beautiful.”
In 2010, during a firefight in heavily-mined farmland of Afghanistan’s Arghandab River Valley, Bixler saw that an Afghan soldier was about to step into uncleared ground. He pulled the soldier back, but in doing so he lost his balance and stepped on an improvised explosive device.
The Afghan soldier escaped with only minor injuries, but Bixler suffered a spinal injury and serious shrapnel wounds and lost both legs. He was awarded the Silver Star for his actions.
US SENATE OKAYS CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL FOR WWII FILVETS — GLOBAL NATION — WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a unanimous vote, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, June 13 passed a bill to award Filipino World War II veterans who fought for the United States the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award that Congress can bestow.
The legislation authored by Senator Mazie K. Hirono (Dem.-Hawaii) with Senator Dean Heller (Dem-Nevada) as lead co-sponsor, was backed by a broad, bipartisan coalition of 71 co-sponsoring senators.
The Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015, or S.1555, recognizes over 260,000 Filipino and Filipino American soldiers who responded to President Roosevelt’s call-to-duty and fought under the American flag during World War II.
The U.S. House of Representatives must now pass companion bill HR 2737 so the legislation can be sent to President Obama for his signature.
“Today, the Senate provided recognition to Filipino World War II veterans for their brave and courageous service to the United States,” said Sen. Hirono. “These veterans were instrumental to an Allied victory in the Pacific theater, but their fight didn’t end with the war.”
NON-PROFIT WANTS TO GIVE AS MANY GYM MEMBERSHIPS TO WOUNDED VETS AS POSSIBLE — DAILY CALLER — Non-profit organization Catch A Lift Fund has provided free gym memberships to more than 2,200 wounded veterans in just six years and has ambitions to expand to cover even more warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lynn Coffland founded Catch A Lift in February 2010 in memory of her brother, Army Cpl. Chris Coffland, who was killed in 2009 on deployment in Afghanistan.
“My brother, who is my best friend in the universe, enlisted in the army one month shy of 42, the maximum volunteer age,” Coffland told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “This was after 9/11. He felt like he wanted to serve, as he was single, didn’t have any children and wanted to defend our country. Through his whole life he was a huge fitness enthusiast, he believed it changed you mentally and physically, and enhanced your life, and your mental spirituality, everything.”
HOW FLY FISHING IS HELPING VETERANS FIND PEACE OF MIND — DAILY CALLER — Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing is devoted to the physical and emotional recovery of disabled active service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing.
The program was founded as a non-profit in 2005 in Maryland.
Project Healing Waters started assisting at Walter Reed Army Medical Center where military service members wounded in combat returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Founder and president Officer Ed Nicholson of U.S. Navy said, “Fly fishing is a body, mind and soul therapeutic type of healing, we get to experience an incredible sport that millions of individuals participate in across the world. We use it as a vehicle in which healing occurs when individuals meet and become friends, we are all about relationships.”
COTTON: I’M SPEAKING AT THE CONVENTION — ABOUT VETERANS AND THE MILITARY — HOT AIR — Want to see why some conservatives have Tom Cotton high on their list of acceptable running-mate choices for Donald Trump? This six-minute segment on MSNBC’s Morning Joe demonstrates his grasp of national-security and foreign-policy issues, especially when it comes to the war on radical Islamist terrorist groups like ISIS. Cotton ably deflects the suggestion that his own views come closer to Hillary Clinton’s than Trump’s, even on the issue of NATO.
Interestingly, though, Cotton insists that his speaking gig at the convention will be in support of the military and veterans, leaving Trump out of the equation: